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Thursday, July 17, 2014

Summer Sparkles

One of the side effects of a long cold winter with the majority of the Great Lakes having frozen over is the insane amount of late afternoon haze. The lakes are so cold here that when the sun is out and warms things up the photos are blurry with the amount of evaporation that happens all day long. It makes taking pictures a little more difficult that I am happy with... at least when I am taking long distance photos. The close ups have this ethereal quality that make photo editing much easier than it has in the past.

Take this photo for instance... It is from a shallow part of the Elk River in Elk Rapids near the rapids that form at the culvert for US 31. The back waters and tidal pools are much easier to photograph with the diffuse light. You can see a broken pier, the rocks and water-logged vegetation. I only wish there was a fish in this water. There were tons that day, but they swam out of the shot too fast. I was so happy with this picture because I got the lens flares and sparkles without having to edit them in. So I guess there is that.

My boyfriend and I take little day or half day trips when we are able to get together. And we went to Elk Rapids last week. My mom was raised there and I have always like the little town that time only remembers in a melancholic haze. There is progress when you are in the marina. It rivals that of the larger TC where I am from. But the town in its wisdom tries to keep the future that we live in as behind the scenes as possible. It still looks a lot like it did when mom was growing up. At least the harbor side does. The condos and big houses are on the other side. Mostly.... there are a few on the marina but it isn't like Charlevoix. It's still small, and cute.

We ate at the cafe that my mom might have worked at when she was in high school. Good food. Great service. Not a lot going on while we were there as everyone was in Traverse for the Cherry Festival. We've eaten at the Towne Club before and both were really good simple places to eat for a pretty good price. On the day that we were there my boyfriend indulged me in a photo tour and a walk through some antique stores. Nothing purchased so nothing photographed.

The architecture here is still pretty much as it was in the day it was a booming port. It's victorian with some European flavors as you can tell with the bright colors on the building in the foreground. It seems to me that the majority of Elk Rapids' citizens were of Central European descent. My mom said that one of the reasons that Grampa moved them to Elk Rapids was that there were many people of their kind and sympathies there. In addition to the architecture, the remains of past lives in the antique store seem to support my supposition. There are more Bavarian ceramics, hand painted plates and whatnots in one antique store than I have seen in 15 years of antiquing in northern Michigan.

In another very European way, our small towns are adapting the concept of filler gardens. When there is no space for a building, but lots of space for blight to take root the city puts in a garden. It softens the edges and provides a place of beauty where otherwise you might find a lot of blown in trash congregating.

The last time I saw a garden this well attended on the side of a walkway it was the backyard of a garden supply store in Grand Rapids in one of the Eastern neighborhoods. Unlike that one, this is not fenced in. This is one of the pathways from town to the residential section. We didn't walk through there though. Normally I like to but we were also trying to find a place to go fishing... residential architecture was not on the agenda.

Something else that I am seeing more frequently is random art, specifically sidewalk sculptures made of cast fiberglass and painted by art students. I first saw these things in Somerset Studio's Melange section. It started as a fundraiser for a cause in LA with artists painting angels. Now I see all kinds of these things all over the place. It's fun to be walking along and run into one of these things. In downtown Elk Rapids there is a bear painted to represent the story of the Sleeping Bear. Normally the Leelanau Peninsula is where all the legendary references are so this one was a nice surprise.

Elk Rapids is symbolic of what I like the best about living in Northern Michigan. It's a topographically diverse area; hills, forests, water, small "mountains", and the climate is similar to the best growing regions in Europe. The climate, the distance from the major metropolitan hubs means that we will grow at a slower rate than Detroit or Grand Rapids and we can have these pretty little towns. You can go at your own pace. I like that. I like that we don't seem to have forgotten where we come from. And I like that we don't rush into the kinds of things that have caused larger cities to begin to implode.

Summer in northern Michigan is busy to be sure. But there is such wonderful places to relax and so many things to do that it seems a shame to have to work when the weather is so nice.

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